Like Trees, We Need Stress in Our Lives

forest enshrouded in mist
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I just learned that trees die without stress.

A friend told me about the experiment of biosphere 2, where scientists tried to understand how our ecosystems work. One thing they couldn’t figure out was why trees started falling over.

Trees and Stress

Long story short, trees were falling over because there wasn’t enough wind. The wind in the natural world puts enough stress on the trees to prompt them to grow. This stress pushes them to establish deeper roots and to make a different type of wood—stress wood—that grows towards the light and around obstacles. The stress of the wind literally allows them to stay alive and flourish and grow.

Trees, Stress, and Humans

There’s a lot to say about how humans are like trees, and a lot of spiritual lessons to be learned from every aspect of trees’ anatomy. In Ephesians, Paul prays that we would be “rooted and established in love.”

Jesus exhorts his followers to “remain in the vine.” The Psalmist and Jeremiah pray that we would be like trees near streams of water.

Do We Need Stress?

And just as we need to put our roots down into the soil of God’s love, just as we need the living water of the Spirit of God, just as we need the connections of a forest of other trees in order to hold us up, this information helped me consider how we need the “wind” of everyday life. We actually need little stresses that push us to get more firmly rooted.

Sinking Our Roots Into Love

Of course there are windstorms that break trees rather than grow them up. Not all stress is good. But hardship can also be an invitation for us to sink our roots more deeply into the soil of God’s enduring love that anchors us, connects us to others, and nourishes us so that we can grow in flexibility and grace.


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